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House OKs Trade Authority Measure

Congress: The narrowly approved bill would give Bush 'fast-track' negotiating power with foreign nations. He says 'a stronger hand' would benefit the economy.


Rep. Lindsay O. Graham (R-S.C.), who is running for the Senate in a state that is home to import-sensitive textile manufacturing, voted against it. But House Ways and Means Committee Chairman William M. Thomas (R-Bakersfield), whose district encompasses pro-export agricultural interests, led the effort for passage.

Thomas said that, without authority to negotiate trade accords, "the president does not have the tool to begin negotiations with other countries. That's like beginning a boxing match with one hand tied behind your back."

The Senate passed the central elements of the trade legislation in May by a vote of 66 to 30. Despite that lopsided majority, opponents will get another opportunity to stymie the legislation this week.

"A multitude of delaying tactics could be employed by opponents of the bill to slow it down or even kill the legislation," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who is a proponent. "We need to get the trade bill passed before the August recess. International trade is key to our economic recovery."

But another farm state senator, Democrat Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, has said repeatedly that he will fight for "fair trade" that does not victimize U.S. workers.

Voting for the bill in the House were 190 Republicans and 25 Democrats. Voting against it were 183 Democrats, 27 Republicans and two independents.

Within California's 52-member House delegation, 18 Republicans voted for the bill and 28 Democrats voted against it. Four California Democrats were among those voting for it: Susan A. Davis of San Diego, Calvin M. Dooley of Hanford, Jane Harman of Venice and Ellen O. Tauscher of Alamo. Two Republicans were opposed: Duncan Hunter of Alpine and Dana Rohrabacher of Huntington Beach.

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